A close look at…
Lacco Ameno (Ischia) | Albergo della Regina Isabella
Even though the island of Ischia in the Gulf of Naples had been famous for its thermal waters since the 18th century when the towns along its Northern coastline became fashionable spa resorts, it was a Milanese gentleman named Angelo Rizzoli who relaunched one of them: Lacco Ameno, largely fallen into disrepair after a devastating earthquake in 1883. Having become one of the most influential publishers and film producers of the young Italian Republic in the wake of WWII, it was Rizzoli who put Ischia on the map of the international jet-set circuit during the 1950s and 1960s.
In order to rightfully accommodate his illustrious entourage – Taylor, Burton & Co. to name a few – he revived the town’s renowned spa named after Queen Isabella of Naples who, long ago, sought relief in its healing radioactive waters. Adding on to the historical structure, he imagined a resort for ‘friends and family’ that was to become one of the most exclusive, small hotel complexes in the Mediterranean.
Soon after its opening in 1956, the hotel became a sensational novelty: a spa and beach resort in one of Italy’s most emblematic regions – La Dolce Vita* at its finest!
Queen Isabella’s ‘inn’ is one of the most impressive properties that I have come across during my investigations so far. Embracing the uniqueness of its 1950s architecture and design assets, the hotel has willfully undergone modern updates that make it appealing for new generations of Hollywood royalty and other global players. The results do not compromise the perceptible chic of Mr. Rizzoli’s heyday: nowhere does one sense the feeling of dusty sentimentality for bygone times. In fact, the result is a unique property that looks as fresh and glamorous as it must have to Mr. and Mrs. Mengeghini-Callas, among the first guests during the season of 1957.
Seen from the water, the hotel seems like a natural extension of Lacco Ameno’s pastel-colored buildings. Only from the property itself does one realize how the ingenious layout of the complex, formed by several distinct buildings, enhances the feeling of luxurious seclusion that still manages to keep in touch with its surroundings. Although not enormous, the hotel feels almost like a private village with a layout that sometimes appears delightfully confusing. In addition, the main and the ‘Sporting’ wing feature their ‘own’ pools, restaurants and bars but this distinction is a mere versatility which is coveted by many returning guests.
Inside, the most impressive sight are the distinctive regional Capodimonte-style tiles that adorn public spaces and guest rooms alike in a seemingly endless array of different patterns and colors. As their complement, the restored original furniture and modernized interior color schemes mostly work together quite successfully. The two restaurants are airy and elegant, veranda-like spaces that overlook the sea and, at night, the lights of Naples as a backdrop. The main public rooms are located on the city side of the main building and are a succession of elegant spaces displaying the lightness of an unmistakably Italian design: the sumptuous lounge, the elegant ‘Regina Isabella Bar’ with its delightful shady terrace, an exquisitely detailed game room and the grand ballroom.
Beside the main ‘Regina Isabella’ building, the hotel comprises the ‘Belvedere’, ‘Sporting’ and ‘Royal’ wings which, in that order, grow in exclusivity. The latter is literally hugging Monte Vico, and has functioned since the beginning as a sort of quasi-independent hotel within the hotel. The tower-like building holds the hotel’s ‘luxury accommodations’: spacious rooms and even more generous suites that offer rewarding private terraces, several with the additional amenity of a jacuzzi and your choice of sea, thermal or fresh water.
Each of the 128 guest rooms and suites offer a different personality because of their unique hand-painted ceramic floor tiles. The simple but noble furnishings of the accommodations reflect a sense of place which is so harmoniously updated to embrace the sparkle of the 1950s that the absence of balconies in the standard rooms seems almost negligible. Nearly all of the units present their original layout which means that bathrooms, while luxuriously modernized, are rather small and oversize walk-in closets nonexistent – but those lovingly maintained and cleverly organized vintage armoires do the job just as well, if not more elegantly.
Situated directly above its own private beach in the bay of Lacco Ameno, the Regina Isabella is a true beach resort and takes advantage of its beautiful setting. That said, while most guest rooms and suites enjoy sweeping views over the sea, the main wing offers also ‘garden view’ rooms that look onto the pedestrianized town’s main square and the mountain range that culminates in Monte Epomeo, the island’s highest peak. Perhaps the best sea views are enjoyed from the ‘Sporting’ and ‘Royal’ wings since they are located at the extremity of the property and built right into the flanks of Monte Vico.
It is quite an achievement to offer all the comprehensive treatments of a century-old European spa in a world-class hotel without the inherent undertone of a private clinic at best. In that sense, the green island of Ischia plays host to a truly joyful and outstanding combination of wellness and seaside pleasures in the immensely picturesque Gulf of Naples. Mastering this blend to perfection, the Regina Isabella is without any doubt one of the most appealing five-star deluxe properties in Europe with quality and service to match. It is also one of the few that has recognized the qualities of its original design and carefully blended it either into the necessary modern updates or given a contemporary attitude (best expressed by ‘Indaco’, the hotel’s intimate Michelin-starred gourmet restaurant).
The Name of the Game
Take the healing waters of Montecatini and combine them with the hedonistic charm of Capri, mix well and indulge!
* Rizzoli was the producer of Federico Fellini’s 1960 comedy-drama ‘La Dolce Vita’
L’Albergo della Regina Isabella
Piazza Santa Restituta, 1
80076 Lacco Ameno, Isola d’Ischia (NA)